Cordyline fruticosa (kor-dil-LYE-nee froo-tih-KOH-suh) is a perennial, broadleaf evergreen plant hailing from Southeast Asia, Eastern Australia, Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, and other Pacific Islands.
It is a member of the Asparagaceae family along with the popular Dracaena varieties and was formerly known as Cordyline terminalis.
The plant’s genus name, Cordyline, is derived from the Greek, kordyle, which means “a club.”
The specific epithet, fruticosa, means shrubby.
The specific epithet, terminalis, means terminal (end) position.
Many call the cordyline plant by the common name of:
- Baby Doll Ti Plant
- Good Luck Plant
- Cabbage Tree
- Red Sister Ti
- Hawaiian Ti plant
- Fruticosa Cordyline
- Water Ti Plant
Cordyline Red Sister is a popular evergreen shrub variety found in many garden centers.
Cordyline Fruticosa Care
Size & Growth
Baby Doll Ti Plant has a palm-like growth habit.
It typically grows as a medium-sized shrub or small tree, about 10′ feet high, but it can attain heights of 15′ feet under ideal circumstances.
The typical spread is between 3′ and 8′ feet.
The leaves of the Ti plant are 30” inch long with a width of 6” inches.
They are glossy and colorful with streaks of green, pink, red, and purple.
Mature plants typically shed their lower leaves.
If you have a bright southern window or a sun porch the Cordyline can make wonderful house plants.
Flowering & Fragrance
Indoor plants of C. terminalis rarely bloom, but when kept outdoors, this seasonal bloomer produces small, fragrant flowers in shades of white, yellow, reddish or pale lavender in the springtime.
The tiny blooms are arranged on panicles, which may be a foot long.
They transition into showy red berries.
Light & Temperature
Cabbage Palm prefers plenty of bright, indirect sunlight.
As an indoor plant, it does very well with the consistent, comfortable indoor temperatures found in most homes and office settings.
Set houseplants outdoors during the spring and summer in temperate climates.
Be sure to provide shelter from harsh elements and bring the plant indoors well before the first frost.
Kept outdoors year-round, Ti Plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 10-12.
In the United States, it can only thrive outdoors in Florida and Hawaii.
Outdoors, the shrub can do well in light settings ranging from deep shade to full sun.
More sun brings out more leaf color.
Watering & Feeding
Hawaiian Ti likes consistently moist soil and high humidity.
Give it a good watering when the soil surface has dried out.
Set houseplants onto a pebble tray with water to improve humidity around the plant, but be careful not to allow the water in the tray to touch the bottom of the container.
Ti Plant should never stand in water.
Use rainwater, filtered water, or bottled water to water Red Sister because the plant is sensitive to fluoride and other chemicals typically found in tap water.
Fertilize lightly with a balanced, liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength.
Do not use superphosphate fertilizers.
If using a granular slow-release fertilizer, do not allow fertilizer to touch the leaves or stems as this can cause burning.
Protect the plant against any contact with chemicals (including leaf shine products) because these plants are especially sensitive to non-organic substances.
If growing in the landscape, be sure to amend the soil with organic matter to provide nourishment and good drainage.
Keep it moist. Cordyline fruticosa is not drought tolerant.
Planting Cordylines: Soil & Transplanting
Red Sister Ti plants do well in high-quality potting mix, not containing perlite (which contains fluoride).
The pH level should be around 6-6.5.
Soil loamy, sandy, or even on the clay side is fine, as long as it’s amended with peat or other organic matter to improve drainage, retain the right amount of moisture, and provide some nourishment.
If planting in a pot or container, remember Ti Plants tend to be top-heavy, so choose a sturdy, heavy container to prevent toppling.
If planted in the landscape, provide support to prevent toppling.
Grooming & Maintenance
As time passes, your Cordyline fruticosa may become a bit leggy and the leaf tips may brown.
Keep up with regular pruning to remove dead leaves.
Trim back stems to produce a staggered pattern of stems of varying heights.
When grown indoors clean the leaves as they collect dust.
How To Propagate Cordyline Fruticosa
Propagate Cabbage Tree by laying 3” – 5” inch stem sections (aka Ti logs) on a bed of damp gravel or sand in a warm, sheltered area with low, indirect lighting.
Roots and leaves should soon appear, and then transplant your new Ti plant into their own pots and treat them as mature plants.
Ti Plants Pest or Disease Problems
When grown as a house plant spider mites can become an issue on the underside of leaves in hot dry environments. Learn more about controlling spider mites.
Overwatering or overcrowding can cause the Ti Plant to experience problems with maladies such as:
- Bacterial stem spot
- Bacterial leaf Spot
- Fusarium stem rot
- Fusarium root rot
- Fusarium leaf rot
These bacterial infections cause blackening of the roots and slimy leaves.
Unfortunately, once a bacterial infection has set in, it is fairly impossible to treat.
You’ll just need to get rid of the infected plants.
Avoid having bacterial infection invading your plant collection by checking all new plants carefully for symptoms before bringing them home.
If you see spots on your plants’ leaves and stems surrounded by yellow, purple, red, brown, or tan, you may be dealing with the Phyllosticta leaf spot.
To prevent this, avoid overhead watering.
To treat it, try an application of a commercial house plant fungicide.
If your plants develop water-soaked, brown leaves at the level of the soil, you may have a Phytophthora Leaf Spot infection in residence.
While preventative applications of houseplant fungicide may prevent this from happening, once your plant is infected, it must be discarded.
Is Cordyline Fruticosa Toxic Or Poisonous?
Baby Doll Ti Plant is toxic to cats and dogs, according to the American Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To animals.
Its toxic principle is saponins, which cause symptoms, including:
- Excessive Drooling
- Bloody vomiting
- Dilated Pupils
Is The Plant Considered Invasive?
This plant is not known to be invasive in the contiguous United States.
Suggested Cordyline Fruticosa Uses
In Hawaii, the leaves of this small tree are often used in the manufacture of hula skirts.
Additionally, when properly prepared, the rhizomes are edible.
In tropical folklore, the Good Luck Plant is said to repel evil spirits and ghosts and to bring good fortune, so it is traditional to plant one of these shrubs near the entrance to the home for protection and luck.
Cordyline makes an attractive accent patio plant and is a lovely specimen plant when planted in the landscape in USDA hardiness zones 10 – 12.
In all climates, Ti Plant makes a colorful and interesting houseplant.